Picking up rave reviews and awards at a remarkable pace, 12 Years A Slave has been dominating the conversation in this fertile movie season. And with good reason. Steve McQueen directs a sensational cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Chiwetel Ejiofo and a remarkable Lupita Nyong’o making her first big screen appearance. Based on a true story, it captures a strange moment in America’s history preceding the civil war when the Confederate South was obstinately holding strong to slavery, catapulting the country into war.
Solomon Northup, a free black man living in Yankee territory in relatively liberal upstate New York, gets duped and subsequently kidnapped, transported South and sold into slavery. The movie follows an epic arc of Northup’s enslavement (now known as Platt), while he struggles to keep body and mind together. As one would expect from McQueen and from the subject matter, this is no teddy bear’s picnic. The film is cruel and relentless at times, but never does it fall into cheap tricks or easy tropes. The South forms a rich backdrop to the tale, with continual references to the scripture turning it into a mythic land of unimaginable brutality. This is never more than when McQueen takes a moment to slow down and allow the camera to take in Ejiofo and the murmurs of the land around him in one drawn out shot. Lives up to the hype so join the conversation.